Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 3 x 1 hour lectures per week
Practical 4 x 3 hour practicals during semester, plus one-day field trip


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Continuous assessment of practicals  Learning Outcomes: 2,3,4,6,7  40%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Examination  60%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Examination  100%


The aim of this module is, through a series of integrated lectures and practicals, to introduce students to the subject of Marine Biology. The module will cover a variety of different topics, however, the emphasis will be on oceanography, major marine ecosystems (i.e. deep sea, pelagic, rocky shore, sandy shore, estuaries etc), primary production and fisheries.

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1) demonstrate their knowledge of the processes which fashion the major oceans and seas
2) discuss the reasons for the stability of ocean systems and the ecological implications of change
3) provide a critical assessment of the factors which control productivity in coastal waters
4) evaluate the factors which determine the nature and distribution of the plant and animal communities of the deep sea, coasts and estuaries
5) explain the behaviour involved in habitat selection by invertebrate larvae.
6) demonstrate an awareness of the principles of fisheries exploitation, management and conservation, including the impacts environmental and demographic impacts of fishing in population dynamics
7) evaluate the principles of different aquaculture production systems and critically asses the role of aquaculture in world fisheries.


The module begins with a classification of the marine environment and an introduction to the major characteristics of the habitats to be studied. The main ocean current systems are described and discussed in relation to their importance in physical and biological oceanography with examples drawn from the Southern Ocean, the equatorial region and the North Atlantic.
The chemistry and composition of sea water is introduced with emphasis on sea water as a "biological environment" - salinity, nutrient profiles, nitrate and phosphate cycles, nutrient regeneration.
Lectures on tides and tidal theory stress the importance of the spring-neap tidal cycle and variability in the cycle. The tidal environment of the littoral zone is discussed in detail. The nature of waves is considered from the standpoint of their impact on the shore environment. Methods used to assess the impact of wave action on shore communities are reviewed.
Primary production and seasonal cycles of primary production in the oceans in relation to nutrients and physical controls are considered. Grazing and the interrelationships between zooplankton and phytoplankton are investigated. The behaviour of zooplankton is discussed and this section of the course concludes with an introduction to food chains and plankton and fisheries.
An introduction to deep-sea biology is given through a consideration of the conditions which prevail in the deep and the adaptations shown by the fauna. This will include a discussion of hydrothermal vents, seeps and oxygen minimum zones; origin of deep-sea fauna, biodiversity; exploitation of resources.
The study of intertidal ecology begins with lectures on rocky shores. The universal nature of shore zonation is considered through a study of the physical factors on the shore and interactions between organisms. Physical factors are studied in conjunction with investigations into the physiological ecology of some common shore organisms. Competition for space, feeding strategies and grazing, and reproductive strategies are studied in some of the major groups. The impact of exposure to wave action on shore zonation is explained and the value of exposure scales is reviewed. Comparisons are made between rocky shores and sedimentary shores and the importance of the physical characteristics of sediments is stressed, leading to a consideration of the classical concepts of bottom fauna community ecology. The estuarine environment is considered in detail - physical factors, communities of sand and mud flats, productivity, estuarine food webs.
Studies on intertidal ecology conclude with a consideration of the life-cycles of selected species with emphasis on substrate selection and behaviour at settlement.
The study of marine fisheries starts describing the biology and distribution of the main exploited species. The next lectures introduce different fishing methods and their impacts on population structure, as well as the consequences of selective fishing. Different aquaculture systems of production are considered. The role of aquaculture in alleviating fishing pressures on the sea and its impact on natural ecosystems are discussed.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Collection and scrutiny of data in terms of quality and quantity. They will be expected to analyse their laboratory data using statistics and interpret their results.
Communication Listening skills for the lectures, practicals, and subsequent discussion and group work in practical classes. Effective written communication in examinations and practicals reports.
Improving own Learning and Performance Listening skills for the lectures, practicals, and subsequent discussion and group work in practical classes. Effective written communication in examinations and practicals reports.
Information Technology Accessing the web for information sources and using databases to find primary literature.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will gain confidence in their ability to evaluate biological problems and objectively assess the quality of proposed solutions.
Problem solving Through the lectures and practicals students will become aware of the main principles of marine biology.
Research skills Students will research topics beyond the depth and scope of the lecture material using independent study, and during the write up of the practical reports. Information from a variety of sources will be the object of scrutiny and comment. Practical classes will utilize standard marine biological research skills at an early stage of their academic careers.
Team work Students will work in pairs/small groups during practical sessions. They will need to discuss their experimental design/investigations and work effectively as a small team in practical classes.

Reading List

Recommended Text
KAISER, M J et al (2005) Marine ecology - processes, systems and impacts Oxford University Press Primo search LALLI, C.M. and PARSONS, T.T. (1997) Biological oceanography - an introduction Butterworth-Heinemann Primo search
Reference Text
BARNES, R.S.K. and HUGHES, R.N. (1988) An introduction to marine ecology Blackwell Publishing Primo search HERRING, P (2002) The biology of the deep ocean Oxford University Press Primo search JENNINGS, S. KAISER, M.J. and REYNOLDS, J.D. (2001) Marine fisheries ecology Blackwell Publishing Primo search LEVINTON, J.S. (1995) Marine biology. Function, biodiversity, ecology Oxford University Press Primo search RAFFAELLI, D and HAWKINS, S (1996) Intertidal ecology Chapman and Hall Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 5